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Writing Archives

SerenDIPity

I’ve entered a contest run by Cherie and Chris of Technomadia, where they’ve asked travellers (like me!) to write about how serendipity has influenced our lives. If you want to know why I’ve written SerenDIPity like that, check out this post about the contest. If you’re already here via Technomadia, welcome!

And if you’re not? Well, we can’t all be perfect. Welcome anyway :0)

This is my story.

 

Paradise Lost?

I left England for Thailand, intending to spend three months volunteering in an animal clinic. I had visions of a tiny paradise island – and I was dead right! Koh Phangan had everything I could have asked for – postcard-perfect beaches, dense tropical jungle and a party scene so wild I very nearly didn’t survive it.

It was so good, I couldn’t even think about going home.

Actually I missed my flight.

It was accidentally-on-purpose. I’d sort of seen it coming; I hadn’t bothered to check my ticket for a long time, and I wasn’t exactly devastated to find the flight had left without me. I just climbed back into my hammock and appreciated one more fiery sunset over the ocean.

I ended up staying for nearly a year.

I had no desire to go back to England at all – I was taking people Scuba-diving for a living, still working at the animal clinic in-between times and still loving life on that tiny tropical island.

Every day was different; whether guiding customers through shoals of brightly coloured fish, nursing stray dogs back to health at the clinic, or rescuing irate monkeys from places they really shouldn’t be (like restaurants); as far as I was concerned, my life there was perfect.

Palm Tree ClimbingThai BeachEventually though, I began to run out of money; I’d spent everything I could, then borrowed more and spent that too. My diving wages had all gone on dive gear and I was fighting the realisation that my trip was nearly over.  The final blow was when a thief broke into my bungalow and stole the last of my cash. I was getting desperate. Being suddenly penniless 6,000 miles from home, in a country where no-one in authority speaks your language, is pretty scary. Home would be boring – it would certainly mean the end of my adventures – but it would be safe.

Then I got a phone call from my sister. She was on holiday in Australia, staying with a friend she’d met whilst traveling, and the two of them were planning a grand trip around the country. She’d called to see if she could convince me to leave Thailand, fly to Australia, and come with them!

I said I’d have loved to, if only I could afford it.

“No worries!” she said. Her friend Krista had a place I could stay while I looked for work.

It all seemed likely to end in tears – my sister and I have had a volatile relationship in the past, and being dependant entirely on her friend’s charity would be the total opposite of the freedom I’d become accustomed to.

Plus there was paperwork, and visas, and… that ever-present fear of the unknown.

But sometimes you’ve just got to go for it.

Trust to fate, I thought.

I went for it.

I flew into Perth on a maxed out credit card, arriving with nothing but the clothes on my back – the animals had destroyed the rest! My entire luggage allowance was taken up by one huge bag of diving gear.

I couldn’t even afford a cup of coffee in the airport.

But then, who can these days?

Gill and Krista came to pick me up in a crumbling van they’d bought and decorated with multi-coloured hand prints! Appropriately enough, they’d called it ‘Rusty’.

Krista had set up an interview for me with a local job agency for the following day.

I started work the day after that.

She drove me in to work herself, and picked me up afterwards, every day for the couple of weeks it took me to get back on my feet. Sometimes she’d even bring me cookies or cake! I had so much fun hanging out with her, I decided to risk joining the grand adventure after all; as soon as I had a bit of cash saved up we all piled into ‘Rusty’ and set off for parts unknown.

Six years later, Krista and I are still travelling.

In that time we’ve hardly been apart, despite being residents of two countries on opposite sides of the world. We’ve had a lot of adventures and done a lot of crazy things – and we always trust to fate, or to Serendipity, to get us where we’re meant to be.

We were married last year in an English castle, with guests from seven different countries helping us celebrate.

I was a bit scared of marriage, at first.

But like with anything else, sometimes you’ve just got to go for it.

Wedding photo

The Great Perth Storm of 2012…

We heard it first on the news.

A storm was coming for Perth. One of epic proportions.

WA StormAfter a week of wild weather, winds bringing down trees and power lines alike, this was set to be IT. The Big One.

Batten down the hatches – we were in for a rough ride.

Word spread from TV and radio, from person to person – it was a storm – no, it was a tornado! Category 2, whatever that means, or worse – is there worse than a Category 2? I don’t know!

People panicked.

Facebook lit up with concerns about power outages and house damage.

“I have to park my car underneath a huge tree,” one friend explained. “I can’t do anything to stop it getting crushed!”

There was talk of flooding.

There was talk of snow.

Surely we weren’t in for a blizzard? I mean, I know it’s winter, but this is Perth! Right?

People hurried home from work.

We could hardly believe it – the traffic at 4pm was like rush hour. Businesses and shops closed early, sending staff home as soon as they could to avoid them being caught on the road when The Storm hit.

By nightfall the roads were empty. It was eerie, as we drove home from the gym, speeding unopposed down streets we normally had to queue down.

Empty StreetsThe cafes and restaurants of the popular Vic Park district were all empty; occasionally a terrified pedestrian darted across the street, desperately seeking shelter, cursing the cruel fate that had left them stranded outside in the face of the advancing storm.

At just after 8pm, Western Standard Time, it hit.

The noise of the wind was intense – well, probably. We didn’t hear it as we were inside eating schnitzels.

The storm surged around the house, making us occasionally remember it was there. Plans were abandoned: “We’ll have to put the bins out tomorrow,” I said gravely.

“We’ll have to close the bedroom window!” my wife informed me.

But we didn’t. We’re just that fearless.

Outside, the storm raged unabated.

Perth resisted with all it’s strength – but how could it possibly survive the night?

For minutes at a time we were battered by the rain, sheeting from the sky with enough force to make you really, really wet.

Then there would be a brief lull – then rain would pour down once again, flooding into our drains like… well, like it’s supposed to do.

The aftermath was one of subtle devastation.

Branches were down.

Leaves were down.

Hell, leaves were everywhere. It looked like Perth had been caught in the grip of a… big storm. Well, big-ish.

Across the region, fences were slightly damaged.

A garden gnome was seen to be unmoved in the hilltop vicinity of Roleystone, having narrowly survived the same terrifying ordeal that his friends had also narrowly survived.

Slowly, life returned to normal. People came out of hiding, glancing fearfully at the sky and counting the signs of destruction all around them.

Some of them needed more than one finger.

But long after the boards had been removed from our windows, long after the children had been rescued from beneath tables and under beds, long after 10am, when the sun had dried all remaining traces of the deadly rainstorm – Perth was still there.

Thankfully no-one lost their lives to the deadly downpour, though it is believed that a few weather forecasters lost their jobs.

Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, and with the idiots themselves.

United in their defiance of the storm, Perth residents have vowed: ‘We shall rebuild!’

Picture by The Brow Horn Orchestra

Unfortunately, nothing was destroyed, but the sentiment remains important. Never again will this brave city feel as threatened by Mother Nature.

Never before, in the field of human-weather activity, has so little been done to so many by such a vast load of bullshit.

So now, wear this badge with pride:

I survived banner

 

Back For Good… (or possibly bad)

Hi, everybody!

Now, you might have noticed that I haven’t written a blog for quite a while.

In fact, some people have even been complaining about my lack of posts.

To them, I must now offer a most heart-felt: “Screw you! What the hell am I, your bitch?”

In the nicest possible way, of course  :0)

Alas, t’is true though. I have been even slacker than my trousers, and those puppies’ll slide right off just by looking at them. Honestly. It happens all the time.

Most of my excuse is that I’ve had an extended sojourn, almost two months in England, saying good-bye to my Granddad; I’ll doubtless write about it at some point, but I’m not quite ready yet.

The rest of the excuse is that, for an incredibly lazy person, I’ve been surprisingly busy lately! I’d like to say I’ve achieved a lot, but that would be a lie.

Instead, it’s been a weird time.

It’s been a month of ‘almosts’.

As in, I almost wrote a blog post…!

I almost missed my flight back to Australia (whilst looking at an iPad).

And I almost bought an iPad (whilst almost missing my flight to Australia).

I almost bought an iPad again, when my poor Macbook unexpectedly almost needed $800 of repairs… twice!

Repair Bill

Oh, and I almost bought a house.

Perhaps it’s truer to say, I flirted with the idea of buying a house – or more accurately, buying land, building a house – and then selling it on for a whopping great profit. The scheme was simple enough (because I thought of it, and I have a reputation for being a bit simple); there were some blocks of land on sale near us for just $70,000! (That’s about £45k for you pommies!).

This wouldn’t have excited me, were it not for companies like Aussie Living that advertise all the time over here – and guarantee to build a complete house – 4 bedroom, with home cinema, games room, bloody everything you could ever want – for $160k. Amazing. Unbelievable! And you can’t buy a house in our area for less than $350k. So…

It was so simple, I could even do the maths in my head:

$70,000 (land) + $160,000 (house) + $that contingency think they always go on about in Grand Designs = Bloody great big piles of loot for me!!

Perth Land Auction

+

 

House Exterior

including:

House interior

=

Money

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, I could end up deeply in debt, and homeless – but then I’ve been in debt and homeless for most of the last seven years, and I’ve managed to stay cheerful.

I called my parents to ask if I was completely insane. They agreed that I was, in fact, completely insane. Just as I’d thought! This plan was a goer.

But when I  checked with a local bank to see if I could get a three-hundred-grand mortgage, and mentioned that I was a writer, the response went something like this:

“Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! (Draws breath) Hahahahahahahaha! (Sobbing), “Ah, for a minute there I thought you said… said… writer! BWAAhh, ha ha hahahahaha…”

I thought about protesting, and pointing out that in addition to me having the earnings from the book, my wife is also a part-time cleaner… but I got the feeling this wouldn’t help very much.

So. That was the end of that.

Never mind, I told myself. A house wouldn’t really fit into my backpack anyway, and if I did want to pay a mortgage I might have to do something a bit more serious than write daft stories about my adventures. Like, you know, get a job!

Oh Em Gee! Shock! Horror!

Realizing what a close brush I’d had with the world of gainful employment scared me a little; I had to take the rest of the day off and start drinking wine straight away (instead of waiting ‘till after lunch).

The life of a writer is notoriously difficult, but it does allow me certain little luxuries; like the ability to do sod all and get hammered, when the occasion demands it. Or, you know, just whenever.

 

Just My Luck…

So, after almost getting a job – or almost starting looking for one, at any rate – I rounded out the month by almost winning the Lottery.

It was the second Lotto ticket I’ve ever bought. The last one was back in 2008, and I didn’t win then, either, which discouraged me a bit.

This time though, with the jackpot at seventy-million dollars, there was a kind of fevered atmosphere gripping the country. It’s like being in London for the Olympics: I couldn’t not take part.

(Please note: The London Olympic Commission has seen fit to ban me from attending for this reason.)

Roo (my wife) bought the ticket and we dreamt of all the stuff you can buy with seventy million bucks. Pretty much the same stuff you’d buy with one million really, there’d just be a lot more change.

As the numbers came out, we got the first one. And the second one. And the third. When the forth came out, and was on our ticket in line with the others, I shit the bed. Just a little.

And then it was all over; no more numbers, and we’d won some poxy amount which we couldn’t check because the Lotto website was utterly overwhelmed and crashed. Still, four numbers out of six. We’d come SO close…

But no banana.

So on the upside, I am still writing another book. Because although it won’t help me to get a mortgage, it will at least keep me from having to get a real job.

Like, say, being a part-time cleaner.

Life is SO hard these days, eh?

I promise to work a bit harder from now on. At least when it comes to blogging… And possibly drinking. I’ll experiment with that too.  :0)

Oh, and one other thing’s been keeping me busy: since the last time I posted a blog, I’ve almost sold 5,ooo books.

So life, whilst occasionally hard, is also quite good.

 

This one’s for YOU!

In preparation for conquering the world – at least as far as book sales go –  I’ve been reading a fantastic book by John Locke called ‘How I Sold A Million Ebooks’. In it he advises authors to get to know their audience, and to write what their audience wants to read. Good advice. So I started to think about that.

Who exactly are my readers?

Well, based on the feedback I’ve been getting they’re of all ages (eight to a hundred and eighty eight) and genders (male, female, other), from a wide variety of countries (even Ireland! Who knew?). But they all have this in common: they are intelligent, sophisticated, highly attractive people – who love to laugh at me making an idiot out of myself.

So with this in mind, I trawled my archives (What? I can’t have archives now?) and looked for examples of me doing stupid things. I found plenty.

The result is this: here for your enjoyment is a short piece I wrote for a competition which I didn’t win, probably because I wrote the piece after the deadline had already passed. I know, I know. Always read the small print! Or, you know, any of the print…

Anyway. This happened while I was in Australia for the first time. Enjoy!

Field Day

    “Tony, wake up! Gotta get ready for work!” My girlfriend Roo was prodding me insistently – with the butt-end of a torch. Outside of our tiny tent darkness reigned and the civilised world still slept; but we had a new job to go to, on a sandalwood plantation, and one thing all agricultural work had in common was an early start. Damn it.

In fairness, this was the height of the Australian summer and our camping ground was in the far north. Intellectually I knew that by 6am the inside of the tent would be like a blast furnace. But I still loathed and detested 5am.

Infinite Field    Dawn found us sitting in a rapidly disintegrating minibus, bouncing along a knackered dirt track towards the plantation. The vehicle was in roughly the same state of repair as the road; there were holes in the roof; there were holes in the floor. It needed to be push-started every time, and was stopped by ‘natural breaking’ – ie, coasting until it either ran out of speed, or hit something. Or both.

Eight other workers were crammed into the torn vinyl-covered seats alongside Roo and myself, and every one of us was braced in position with arms legs and in a few cases, heads pressed against what was left of the dented metal roof.

“She’ll be right!” The boss had said, in true Aussie fashion, when I’d commented to him that only the paint was holding his van together.

After which he’d introduced himself as ‘Johno’.

Johno loved to drive that wreck of a van. He loved to drive it at speed. He prided himself on knowing exactly how to coax what he wanted from the ancient engine. He deftly slotted it between openings in the fence and shot across makeshift bridges over a network of irrigation ditches. He was grinning at me in the rear-view mirror, as if to say ‘See?’

When suddenly the world turned upside down and the seat in front of me took a swipe at my ribs. I twisted as I fell, and ended up lying on my face across the mud-encrusted windows.

Roo was lying on top of me. And at least three people were lying on top of her. The van was on it’s side, nose down in a ditch, and I was slowly being suffocated. This must be what it’s like to play the Aussies at rugby, I thought.

“I can get out the window!” someone called from the front.

“Yeah, me too!”

And one by one we squeezed out of whatever opening presented itself. After all, there were plenty of them.

Johno stood on the bank, counting heads as we crawled up to him.

“Sorry lads!” he said cheerily, ignoring the presence of several women. “It gets a bit narrow there.”

Apparently this satisfied him that the situation was back under control. He pulled out his cell phone and took a deep breath before punching a number in.

“Hey there Big Man! Yeah, we’ve, um, had a bit of a crash…”

He held the phone away from his ear for a few seconds while the swearing on the other end subsided. His mood deteriorated as the noise continued.

“Yeah… that narrow part, by the ditch… yeah, in the ditch. Upside down.”

There was a final blast of abuse from the speaker.

“Yes,” he agreed glumly. “Again.”

The voice did not sound impressed.

Luckily for us, the crash-site wasn’t far from the job-site.

Johno, eager to get back in the good books, led us straight into the field and got us started. ‘Weeding’ would be an accurate description of the job that ensued. Not that I was sure exactly what we were weeding and why, but the contrast with our last job picking pumpkins was unbelievable. It was just so… easy! After two weeks of straining, back-breaking toil hefting gigantic pumpkins into the back of a tractor moving at jogging pace, this wasn’t even work at all.

I strolled over to Roo, who was busily pulling a small leafy plant from the soil.

“This is incredible,” I commented.

“I know! Shh!” She was obviously thinking the same thing – we had to keep this job at all costs.

Another lazy hour drifted by. I wandered up another furrow, pulling up whatever came closest to hand. There was a certain dark green, very persistent weed that seemed to be everywhere. “Check this out!” I dropped a handful of the plants in front of Roo. These things are in every row!”

“That’s because they’re the support plants,” she hissed. “Don’t pull them out. okay? We’ll get in trouble.”

“Oh, really? Shit. Sorry!”

She herself was leaving a trail of remarkably similar looking plants uprooted.

“What’s the difference?”

She sighed. She always had to help me with stuff like this. I was never a particularly observant person. “These are weeds.”

I took the proffered plant and studied it.

“This is the support tree.” The fingers of her free hand gently lifted the leaves atop the stalk nearest to her.

To me, they looked identical.

“See?”

“Of course,” I lied.

“Good.”

“And what about this one?” I held up another of my recent victims. “We pull these out too, right?”

“That’s the sandalwood tree!”

“Oh! Now I get it!”

In spite of herself, Roo was starting to giggle. “How many… how many of those have you… ripped up?”

“Um, well… all of them. I think.”

She burst out laughing, but caught herself – with effort – after one guffaw. “Shit!” she coughed out between suppressed giggles. “Don’t… pick… any more!”

It was all I could do not to crack up myself. We were halfway through the day and I must have divested about a quarter of the field of it’s primary raison d’etre.

Weed pulling

About to commit another crime...

We picked on in silence for the next half-hour.

“Woah!  Careful there!” It was Johno, stomping up the furrow behind me. “Don’t be pulling that one out, mate!”

I froze mid-motion.

“That there’s a sandalwood – just looks a bit different ‘cause it ain’t grown as much,” he explained.

I released my grip on the immature specimen.

“Phew! Glad I stopped you there!” And he strode past me towards the next keen plucker.

I stopped for a few seconds and mopped sweat from my forehead with a bandanna. “So those ones too eh? This job is harder than I thought!”

As Johno drove us home I couldn’t resist asking; “Is this job real? There has to be a catch? Like, deep underground you’ve got some super-secret weapons lab, and we’re just here to make it look innocent on the satellite photos? And you pay us eighteen bucks an hour to pick weeds so no-one rocks the boat, right?”

“Not quite that exciting!” He replied. “See, these sandalwood trees will be producing oil in a couple of years and that oil is expensive stuff. Some trees will make loads, some not as much, but when they’re mature they’ll be worth between three and fifteen thousand dollars each.”

There was a stunned silence. I couldn’t have spoken even if I’d wanted to. My throat had suddenly gone dry.

“F-fifteen? Thousand?” I finally croaked.

“Jeez,” one of the other workers exclaimed, “that’s crazy man! What if someone steals one!”

“Security. Whole place is fenced all around. Got cctv cameras on the fence posts. And our own fire station on site, in case a bush fire gets too close! Yeah, this field is worth something like eighty-five million dollars. They go all out to protect these babies.”

I felt vaguely sick. Whilst at the same time I had the hideous feeling that deep inside me was welling up a great big belly laugh. I’d worked here for one day. By rough estimate I’d done at least a million dollars’ worth of damage…

Roo was nudging me with her foot. I glanced over at her. Her expression was unmistakable ‘Say Nothing!’ it read. I was inclined to agree.

Sandalwoods

That's one pricey plant!

Back at the camp site that evening we discussed our options. Well more accurately, Roo discussed them while I fell around the place laughing. “It’ll take them a long time to get it out of my salary!”

“Come on, seriously!” Roo chastised me. “What are we going to do?”

I took a few deep breaths to calm myself and sat on the scrubby grass next to her.

“If we don’t go back it’ll look really suspicious,” I pointed out. “On the other hand, if we do go back and they spot my little mistake, it’s quite possible they’ll drown us in a ditch.”

“Or they could just put us in a car with Johno driving…” Roo added.

“So what do you reckon? Shall we look for new jobs?”

With a theatrical sigh, Roo reached for our cell phone. “I put Johno’s number in here, I’ll send him a text.”

I watched over her shoulder as she typed.

‘From Tony and Roo. Thanks for an amazing experience.’

Which I thought was quite generous. She paused for a moment, then shrugged. “Not much else to say,” she said. And added ‘We Quit.’

Revenge

Roo's Revenge!

 

So, did you enjoy that one? I hope so! Let me know what you think in the Comments. And if anyone wants to be told when my next blog post comes out, please feel free to stick your email address in the box on the sidebar. It only sends you an email when I publish a new blog post, and I don’t do that too often – I promise you won’t be deleting stacks of emails from me! I usually manage to post about once every ten days or so. And I try to keep it amusing! Well, thanks for reading! You can also find me on:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TonyJamesSlater

And Twitter: @TonyJamesSlater

THANK-YOU!!!

For them that’s wondering (and have been hiding under a stone for the last week while I’ve been shouting it from the rooftops) – the free promotion of ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ was a huge success. Okay, that’s not big enough; it was a

HUGE

success!

In total, 22,701 people downloaded a copy of the book – that’s Twenty-two thousand, seven-hundred and one for those who prefer text to figures.

I rose as high as no.9 overall in the Amazon.com free charts, and held onto the coveted no.1 spot overall on Amazon.co.uk for most of the day!

I’m over the moon. Obviously! Which is why I’d decided to write this post, thanking everyone who helped me to spread the word, and helped made this day the incredible trip that it was.

Here’s a screenshot I’m particularly fond of:

Humor bestseller list

'That Bear Ate My Pants!' at No.1 in humour!

I took dozens of them! But this one, showing me at the top of the ‘humor’ category in Amazon.com – the world’s biggest bookshop – just blew my mind.

So, without further ado, here is the Roll of Honour:

Twitter Followers:

A MASSIVE THANK-YOU to everyone who mentioned, re-tweeted and followed me over the two days. Messages were flying back and forth, so it didn’t occur to me ‘till after it was all over to do a search for ‘That Bear Ate My Pants’ – and there were hundreds of Tweets in that list, all from people who don’t even know me on Twitter!

So here is my list of Top Tweeters, by no means an exclusive list – just a few good souls who seemed to be working hard on my behalf  :0)

@JoeVampireBlog (Steven Luna)

@fuentes_kate1 (Kate Fuentes)

@KatherynLane (Katheryn Lane)

@mad_gods (Athanasios)

@vickiejohnstone (Vickie Johnstone)

@emeraldkell (Allison Bruning)

@stantondaniel (Daniel Stanton)

@DavidAntrobus (David Antrobus)

@jacquehopkins (Jacqueline R Walton)

@unknown_templar (John Paul Davis)

@GerberMgerber (M.H. Gerber)

@FreeBookSy

@KristineCayne (Kristine Cayne)

@rennabruce (Renna Bruce)

@judith_price (Judith Price)

@christinenolfi (Christine Nolfi)

@roberto_baggins (Rob Powell)

@DavinaPearson (Davina Pearson) – Nomad!

@sandranorval (Sandra Noval)

@Flickimp (Imran Siddiq) – Nomad!

Please share the love by following these awesome people!

I’d like to say a specific thank-you to ‘Joo’, a reviewer and active member of the UK Kindle Forums, for being a one-woman promo army!

http://www.kuforum.co.uk/kindleusersforum/

 

Facebook Groups:

(that didn’t kick up too much of a fuss when I posted my link on their Wall! – please note, if doing this yourself – I checked all their guidelines and/or websites first, where I could find ‘em)

http://www.facebook.com/iauthor?sk=wall

http://www.facebook.com/pages/UK-Kindle-Book-Lovers/175617412524192

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Top-Travel-Tips/188870634488744

http://www.facebook.com/readingkindle

http://www.facebook.com/pages/IndieKindle/106911752752245

http://www.facebook.com/weloveebooks

http://www.facebook.com/eReader1

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kindle-Finds/217115528350246

http://www.facebook.com/freeebookdeal?sk=wall

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Authors-on-the-Cheap/202517513144047

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kindle-Author/168316526565998

http://www.facebook.com/earthsbooknook

http://www.facebook.com/allthingskindle

http://www.facebook.com/IndieBookLounge

http://www.facebook.com/kindle

http://www.facebook.com/TheKindleObsessed

 

And finally, the Big Guns:

(When these people say they’ll tell everyone – they really tell EVERYONE!)

Melissa Foster of the World Literary Cafe

Steve WindTalker of Kindle Nation Daily

Anthony Wessel of Digital Book Today

Phil Torcivia of the Kindle Daily Deal

Elizabeth Trudgeon Brown of the Frugal E-Reader

Ricci of FreeBookSy

Holly Bourque of Bargain eBook Hunter

Jack and Shaina of IndieBooksList

Sharon Rosen of Pixel Of Ink

Greg of Ereader News Today

And the team at Kindle On The Cheap

If you’re about to do a free day and you need the world to know – THIS is who you’re gonna call!

Thanks for reading folks. I know this isn’t my usual style of blog post – no swearing for starters, AND no pictures of me naked – sorry ‘bout that. Business shall resume as normal from next week  :0)

I love you all!

Tony

The Dangers of Daytime TV

This is the tragedy of being a writer.

I’m sitting here in my lounge, waiting for my good friend Peter Allison to appear on Channel Ten’s ‘The Circle’. Yes, I’m name dropping here! So sue me. Peter is the best-selling author of three books, including ‘Don’t Look Behind You’ and his brand new book set in South America called  ‘How To Walk A Puma’.

Peter Allison

Peter Allison

I’ve been on TV now and then, for a variety of reasons which I won’t go into here (because who cares, right?!). One thing I know is that whenever you’re waiting for your ‘bit’ to come up – it takes forever. It’s ALWAYS the very last part of the last section, one advert break past the point where you were sure there couldn’t be any more advert breaks. The show is long enough that even your most stalwart mates, who’ve been sitting on your sofa with a bribe of beer, will start to make excuses to leave. It begins with a sigh, followed by “Oh, I just realised I’ve gotta make a phone call…” and ends with them distracting your attention by setting fire to your rug and then diving out the window while you throw yourself bodily onto the flames.

Me on Doctor Who

Yes, that's me about to be electrocuted by a Darlek on Doctor Who

Although to the casual outsider it may look like I lead the life of a loafer (I haven’t had a ‘proper’ job since December 2009!) – it’s not true. Honest! I tend to be quite busy  and I frequently work up to 18 hours a day between writing my new book and promoting my first one.

So I had no idea daytime TV was laced with so many infomercials!

Now, I am a very suggestible person.

It’s funny, because only last night I was writing a chapter in my new book about it; how I can’t help doing whatever people tell me, up to and including licking a prickly cactus. Anyone who knows me knows I can’t be allowed to watch infomercials on my own. At least, not if there’s an active phone line in the house.

So… I’ve bought two packets of Bug Mesh and a Miracle Wonder Bra.

I only narrowly avoided buying a triple-box of ‘EKO Crystals for only $78.75’ because I was busting for a shit. Seriously, if that advert hadn’t happened to coincide with my morning bowel movement my credit card would have taken another pounding.

How I will live with my body’s rampant acidity levels in the absence of these miraculous crystals I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure Roo will be happier, knowing that I spent that time on the toilet.

I also got to sit through a delightful segment on shoes, promoted by a woman in a blouse so hideous even my Mum wouldn’t wear it. Well okay, my Mum probably would wear it. With her nylon trousers and crocs.

My mum

Mum's fashion sense is legendary

This woman was the in-house fashion expert for the show, and was on there showing a selection of shoes which the presenters hated. “But I own these shoes,” she protested, when told they looked like a Grandma would wear them.

Hardly surprising – the woman reminded me of one of my old high-school teachers. I think I would have come across better as a fashion expert in my stained board shorts.

Anyway, Peter’s slot, when it arrived, was delicious – and short. About half the length of time devoted to the shortest infomercial (about a miracle fat-busting powder that I’ll almost never use). The presenters themselves seemed horrified, and asked Peter if he’d come back to carry on their discussion when they had more time! Like, say, at the start of the show, before whatever viewers it attracts have already given up their will to live for the day.

Just goes to show that, write a great book – which Peter has – and people still don’t give a shit. Show up in person and fascinate them, and they’ll finally give you the time of day, become interested, read your book and love it – but until then? I can almost see the show’s guest booker in conversation with the producer.

Booker: “So, we’ve got Peter Allison, this best-selling author type guy…”

Producer: “Really? *Yawns* Okay, stick him in somewhere.”

Booker: “But not before the bras?”

Producer: “Hell no! He’s just an author. You know, books n’ shit.”

Booker: “So after the acne powder?”

Producer: “Acne powder eh? Interesting..! Double its slot. And yeah, stick whatshisname on after that. Oh, but put an ad break I first. Let’s try and make some cash for a change…”

Sucks to be an author. It’s not a bad way to make a living (if you are making a living doing it!). But where’s the respect, eh? Where’s the love? Peter’s new book took him two years to write. I’ve read it and I love it. But those 15 minutes of fame… well, if it is 15 minutes – are pretty fickle.

Yet another reason why authors need a tough skin!

And that’s reason enough for me to need that Acne cream.

(Look, it was THREE tubes for the price of ONE, okay?)

Something For Nothing

It’s okay! I’m safe. Rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. Rumours of another kind, however, are completely and utterly true:

My book, ‘THAT BEAR ATE ME PANTS!’ – is now FREE!

For the next couple of days, at least (February 15th & 16th).

So, if you’ve ever been even remotely tempted – but perhaps put off by the fact that the other is obviously an idiot – NOW is the time to buy get one FREE!

UK:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0057P6FNO/

US:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0057P6FNO/

Book coverAnd here’s the link to the free Kindle reading software, for anyone wanting to read the book on their Mac, PC, iPad or Smartphone:

UK:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/feature.html/ref=kcp_ipad_mkt_lnd?docId=1000425503

US:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=sa_menu_karl3?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771

My aim with this promotion is to make a huge splash – by the end of it I should be wetter than… um… okay, I’ll let you finish off that sentence. In case there are children reading this. (In which case, Oi! It’s okay, you can carry on reading, but still – Oi!)

So. Wetter than a Welsh Wednesday, which in fact it is. Wednesday, that is, not Welsh or wet – I live in Perth Australia for gawd’s sake, we haven’t seen rain since the continents shifted. If water fell from the sky here, thousands would adopt religion on the spot.

Right. Went a bit off track there. Sorry ‘bout that.

This is what happened the last time I did a promotion for the book – during its launch on July 1st, 2011:

Best seller list

MY BOOK on the travel best-sellers list - just ahead of Bill Bryson!

Best seller list 2

...And just behind 'Eat, Pray, Love!'

SO! I have a task for you, my minions…

In fact I have TWO tasks! (Yes, I am a demanding evil overlord. But my health plan is worth it.)

1)   DOWNLOAD MY BOOK! If you haven’t already. Did I mention, it’s FREE? Hell, if you have got it already, get it again! Oh wait – Amazon doesn’t work that way. D’oh. Well then, tell someone else to get it instead.

Which leads me sneakily on to Mission Two:

2)   TELL SOMEONE ELSE TO GET IN INSTEAD! What I’m getting at here is, spread the word people! You all know how utterly awesome my book is (unless you don’t, in which case let me tell you this: it is utterly awesome). Imagine how grateful your friends/family/pet gerbil/chemistry teacher/that nutter that always sits next to you on the bus will be, when you tell them about an awesome book they can download for free – and it will make them wet themselves!

*Note: certain species of Bus Nutter are already adept at wetting themselves, and should NOT be encouraged. Tell the driver instead.

To help you spread the word, I’ve put together a couple of Tweets and Facebook messages that you can copy-and-paste if you want – because I’m a lazy, lazy man, and I can’t exactly complain if my minions are the same, can I?

TWITTER:

Best-selling #travel #comedy THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS! by @TonyJamesSlater is FREE TODAY on #Kindle – grab it quick! http://amzn.to/thatbearus

FACEBOOK (If you’re from the UK):

Hey everyone! My friend Tony James Slater has made his awesome book ‘THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS!’ available for FREE on Amazon Kindle! It takes one click to download it and it’s pants-wettingly funny. Even if you haven’t got a Kindle, you can read it on any Mac or PC, iPad or smartphone with free Kindle software!
What are you waiting for? Here’s the link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0057P6FNO/

FACEBOOK (US/Everywhere else):

Hey everyone! My friend Tony James Slater has made his awesome book ‘THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS!’ available for FREE on Amazon Kindle! It takes one click to download it and it’s pants-wettingly funny. Even if you haven’t got a Kindle, you can read it on any Mac or PC, iPad or smartphone with free Kindle software!
What are you waiting for? Here’s the link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0057P6FNO/

Please feel free to alter any of the above however you want, or tell people about the book in your own way – you can even send ‘em to this blog, like this:

‘Some idiot is rambling on about his book being free. Have a look if you can be arsed: http://www.AdventureWithoutEnd.com

Right! Thanks for that folks! I mean it when I say, I really do appreciate all the help you give me. I’m literally doing this on my own otherwise, and honestly I don’t think I’d stand a chance.

The OTHER GOOD NEWS – is that, once this is over you’ll never have to worry about me pushing my book on you again! Because anyone who doesn’t get it when it’s free – well, there’s a good chance they just don’t want the damn thing. So rest easy folks! The end is in sight…

From next week: Business As Normal. So stay tuned for an exciting story about… ah, who the hell knows? I haven’t written it yet. Watch this space.

I love you all,

Tony

Ps. If you come late to this post and have missed the free days, go to the ‘Contact Me’ page and send me an email. If you ask me nicely I’ll probably send you a copy – because I’m nice like that and, ultimately, a sucker.

Less is Less

I was reading an awesome travel blog this morning called ‘YTravel’, and they had a post which inspired me. It was all about how much harder they plan on working in 2012 which I feel is commendable, if slightly insane.

I mean, work harder? REALLY? Mum, do I have to go to school?

Yes okay, we have established that I am one of the laziest buggers ever to walk the Earth. But I felt this was a good opportunity to advertise this fact to a wider audience, so I told them about my intention in 2012, NOT to work as hard as I did in 2011.

I even resolved to work less hard on blogging, what with there only being four of you reading this and all  :0)

So there I was, as usual, taking the piss, and I used the phrase ‘less is… less’ That’s when it hit me – less, in fact, IS less.

‘Less is more’ is a phrase most writers are familiar with, as it relates to economy of word use (another area in which I am sadly lacking. Jeez, not coming off too well in this post am I?).

But ‘less is less’ relates instead to the amount of writing I’ve been producing.

I’ve blogged, I’ve travelled, I’ve renovated three houses. I’ve social media-d. I’ve also got married, learnt to drive, done a Grand Adventure around England and then emigrated to Australia. It was one hell of a busy year.

What I didn’t do, though, is write.

WHAT? Shock, horror! But I’m a writer… aren’t I?

Well I bloody well better be. My only other marketable skill is… Hm. Let’s just say it’s not marketable. Except possibly to sailors.

Me in a dressIt has been mentioned to me recently that I’d “Bloody well better get on with writing the next book!”.

This, of course, is true.

I have now decided to take this piece of advice.

For the first time in my life I have fans – yes, FANS (and not the electric kind, though I have those as well thank-you very much) – asking me about the next book. At least once a day… or week… or month… okay, but it did happen at least once – I get an email, or a facebook message from someone wanting to know when my next book is out.

Who am I to deny them? The great unwashed masses, the people… peoples… person. Or two.

So if you don’t see me around – that’s nothing to do with me writing my new book. That’s because I now live in Australia. Honestly, keep up! But I will be devoting much more time to getting the next book done, hopefully for the start of the English summer. (Since that can be anytime between May 1st and the middle of September, I’d better be more accurate: Let’s say June.)

The new book has a working title of ‘THAT’S NOT MY MONKEY…’ (because at the time, it wasn’t.) I might be letting slip the occasional progress report to keep you all in the loop – and if anyone hasn’t bought my first book, ‘THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS!’ – well you damn well should have! Nothing like a great big pay-cheque to inspire me to write the next one! Grab it now – the link is on the left.

No, the other left.

I will of course continue to blog with no discernable focus, until we all go blind from ennui and start falling into one another. I know, you expect no less.

And just like last year I will offer NO prizes on my blog, because I’m poor. And a terrible host.

Feel free to piss and moan about my general lack of tact (amongst other things) in the comments section. I will then point and laugh.

No, really!

I love you all.

Tony

Query Letter Advice (or, How I Done Mine)

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a writing blog. If you’re looking for real, quality advice on perfecting your query letter, go here, or for great advice on e-publishing your work, go here. In fact my writing is so bad that I have to publish it myself! :0)  (Little dig at my Indie Writers friends there!)

So because Covering Letters (the ones you send out to agents with your precious manuscript) are so important, I thought I’d share my advice on the topic – for what it’s worth…

Scribbled NoteFirst up, here’s my example. I sent out a boat load of submissions to literary agents and publishers throughout the UK. None of them gave a shit, of course. That is, until I came up with this version of my covering letter. I only sent out five of them, and had three requests for a full manuscript and two personal rejections. I came within a gnat’s bollock of getting an agent that time – only to find out that I was unpublishable because I wasn’t famous. Bugger. As a result I published the book myself and am now practically famous – but that’s a whole different story. (And at least part of it is a lie.)

20th February 2010

Dear Lucy,

I am writing to you because you represented HOW LOW CAN YOU GO by TOM CHESSHYRE, and I feel that my book fits into a similar genre.

I nearly died in Ecuador. Pretty much on a daily basis. The trouble with being a volunteer at an exotic animal refuge is that everything wanted a piece of me; and the trouble with being me is that I wasn’t particularly good at it. So most of them got one. “THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS!” is the tale of how a desperate bid to escape conventional life took me to the other side of the world, introduced me to pain, love and the insides of a cow, and brought me back with a strength and self-confidence I hardly dared dream of. And a bit of mucus in my hair.

Right now, climate change and the economic downturn means millions of people are looking for environmentally friendly, low-cost holidays. All of them need a socially responsible guide book.

This is NOT that book.

But those people also need a damn good laugh! So for everyone who wants to know what it’s like to be bitten by a crocodile, mauled by big cats, blinded, shot at and head-butted in the balls by a wild pig – all in the same few weeks – “THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS!” is just the job. A sequel, based in Thailand, is already underway.

My stories have appeared in Take a Break magazine, That’s Life magazine (in Australia) and I recently contributed to the anthology THE VOLUNTARY TRAVELER, published by Dog’s Eye View Media. I also have a background (and a BA degree) in Acting, so I have plenty of experience both on stage and in front of a camera.

Please find enclosed the first 30 pages and a Synopsis, as per the guidelines on your website. I’d be very grateful if you would consider representing me! Thank-you so much for your time. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Tony James Slater

Okay – it’s not a masterpiece. I’m self-critical enough for three people, but I thought I’d use it to illustrate a couple of points I think (and it’s only my opinion) are key.

The first is, know thy enemy! You hate receiving form letters from agents, right? So it makes sense, as a form of revenge, to send them one! HA! Take that… oh, hang on – what I meant is, please will you devote your life to helping me become successful?

Don’t send them form letters. They can do that to you, because you are scum and they quite rightfully despise you.

So, research them. Specifically, find out who or what they have represented that is close to your work. I make this comparison right at the beginning, to:

a) put them in mind of a book they loved, and repp’ed, and sold – POSITIVE association, and;

b) give them a quick ball-park idea of the genre and/or style of the book.

But DON’T make it sound like you think your book is better – even if you do! Most of the books I was comparing mine to are complete crap, but their agent wouldn’t have taken them on if s/he didn’t think they were awesome. So none of this ‘It’s like Stephen King, only scarier,’ malarkey.

Next up, the length – short as poss – and the book description, also short. Three paragraphs, I’ve heard, is ideal. I also like to show a bit of my writing style in the letter, which is why there’s a bit of strong-ish language and an attempt at a joke – normally this is a big no-no, but any agent who baulks at the word ‘balls’ is going to hate my book anyway. Why go to the bother of posting them a copy?

Pile of lettersI spent a few sentences trying to give them a feel for the book, but as mine is anecdotal there isn’t much in the way of plot twists – instead I blew this extra space on trying to convince them the book as funny. Mistake? Almost certainly. But then, so are most of the things I do. It’s why I still have something to write about after all this time!

Seriously though, this section is a play on a very smart ploy – enumerating your potential audience. Remind the agent that there are eighteen point five million lactating octogenarians out there who feel your pain and would love to read your memoir. Tell them that crotch-eating bacteria is hot news and affects one in six males between the ages of eighteen and twenty four who holiday in Thailand – use numbers to suggest the size of your market. If you write sci-fi… well, let’s face it, you’re already screwed.

I repeated my title twice in the letter to help it stick in their mind and used the magic phrase ‘a sequel is already underway’. At the time it was a lie. Hell, it’s still a lie! Depending on how flexible your concept of ‘underway’ is. But the agent will be very interested to know I’m not a one shot deal – and that I’m aware of how important this is.

Finally, I gave them a bit of info about my previous publishing credits. This section is small, as I don’t have much, and it’s generally best not to try to pad out you resumé. Any waffle here, listing all sorts of minor accolades, will make you appear less professional rather than more.

I also showed again that I had read their submission guidelines and was sending exactly what they asked for – and then I thanked them. If there’s ever a time to remember your manners, this is it.

I could have included a word count, or stated that the book was finished, but the word count is on the title page anyway and the fact that I’m writing the sequel suggests this book is done – common wisdom, however, suggests you do both of these things. I am quite clearly not a wise man.

One other way I’ve seen people write queries is to start right out of the gate with the drama –

Dear Agent X,

Jeremy was already dead. He just didn’t know it yet… etc.

I think this is quite popular in the states and might work here – who knows? Anyone tried it? Personally I think it’s too ‘in your face’ for our more traditional English agenty types, and I would save this kind of opening for the manuscript itself. Don’t want your query opening to be more exciting than your book, eh!

Well, that’s it for now – this is already too long I know, particularly for someone like me with no authority to back my opinions up. Please – don’t go away and write a query letter just like mine – I don’t want to be responsible for derailing any more careers, I can’t take the guilt! Just keep in mind,

  • Brevity
  • Proving that you know the agent and/or her previous clients (and chose to submit to her for that reason)
  • Two or three paragraphs giving succinct plot synopsis
  • Demonstrate your writing style – but not too dramatically!
  • Mention sequel (even if you don’t have one)
  • Mention publishing history (only if you do have one)
  • Mention platform (again, if you have one. I don’t. Well, unless you count  :0)
  • Keep it to one page at all costs!

What do you think? Thoughts/comments/plasticine fish?

Throw ‘em all this way!

And to all my regular readers – those who’ve made it this far – Don’t worry! Next time I’ll be blogging about crazy shit, as usual. I promise.

Love

Tony

Promo stunt goes horribly right!

There was an unlikely occurrence this weekend, as the home-made promo team for ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ swung into action at last.

Promo team outside Water stones

Well, you’ve seen the picture. What more do I need to say? If I was known for having rational ideas, well, it probably wouldn’t have been worth writing a book about my life.

If things had gone according to plan, this little stunt would have taken place on Launch Day Weekend, on Friday and Saturday last week. A family crisis meant we had to delay it ‘till this Fri/Sat, and the fact that is pissed it down with rain most of Friday persuaded us to reschedule for Sat/Sun. No-one wants to hug a soggy bear. No-one wants to wear one. There was a major disadvantage in these delays; it meant that I was available. On Launch Day I’d hardly dare leave my computer to pee, and my wonderful sister (Gill) and fiancé (Roo) had planned to do the bear-and-pants-show without me. Now, a week later, I had no excuse at all. And neither did my Mum, so I roped her in too.

Mum in bear suit

At a gnomic five-foot nothing and a quarter, she looked less like a bear and more like an Ewok.

We’d been up all night printing flyers and reinforcing the gigantic pair of cardboard underpants. So, a fairly typical evening in my house. On a beautifully clear Somerset morning, we descended on the town of Taunton.

My first victim was an older woman, slender with long grey hair. Unlikely to buy my book, I thought, but an ideal test subject; my sales pitch had yet to be practised. Hell, it had yet to be invented. I approached her and muttered something about having written an e-book.

She turned on me, eyes blazing with righteous fury. “I don’t approve of THAT at all!” She declared.

Oh bugger.

She then proceeded to tell me in emphatic detail, how technology was the work of the devil. How our society is being destroyed by it, even as we speak! How we are sinking further and faster – the only way to free ourselves is to wipe it all out forever!

“I’ve just paid this young man in cash,” she indicated the green-grocer’s stall behind her. “Credit cards ruin people’s lives – credit cards and COMPUTERS! If I could I would burn the lot of them.”

There really wasn’t much to say to that. I hadn’t been cursed so thoroughly since… well, ever.

“Would you like a flyer?” I offered.

She glared at me as though I had stood on one of her doubtless many cats, and I retreated slowly.

The rest of the morning passed without incident. Not without interest though. Once the crazy woman made her departure, I offered a rather more subdued sales pitch to the green-grocer she’d so kindly paid with pure, innocent cash. He was more receptive.

“Sounds great,” he enthused, and whipped out an iPad from under his stall. He concentrated for a few moments, tapping the evil device on various corners with a grubby finger.

“There!” He proudly showed me the display, featuring the front cover of ‘That Bear Ate My Pants’. “Got it! I’ll read it tonight.”

I was stunned. For a techno-whoring minion of the antichrist, he was a jolly nice chap.

There was a bloke collecting for Guide Dogs for the Blind, sitting outside the car park on a stool with his bright blue plastic bucket. We’d all donated after parking, and had threatened to come back in costume. Now seemed like the perfect time for it. Gill handed him a flyer and he glanced down in surprise.

“We’re advertising my new book, all about my crazy adventures in Ecuador!” I explained.

His brow wrinkled. “But… I can’t read. I’m blind.”

It honestly hadn’t occurred to me. “Oh. Um. Sorry!”

He was still clutching the flyer the next time we walked past.

Gill was wearing the pants. Her new husband, much amused, was trailing us and taking photos. Every so often she would stop and ask him to help her adjust the string shoulder straps. Every time she would mug an unhappy face at the nearest passer-by and tell them “My pants are falling down!”

Roo was a great advocate, loudly proclaiming the merits of the book to everyone we passed. “Buy it – it’s hilarious!” she told a businessman.

“Fuck off,” he replied.

After that she decided to take a turn in the bear.

We de-beared and de-pants’ed outside Debenhams so we could swap jobs and take it in turns to use the loo. Roo suited up and immediately started dancing to the music in her head. Within minutes she had been offered a job by the cafe next-door. They needed a human statue for the upcoming flower festival. Apart from us getting married that week (and going to my Uncle’s funeral in Manchester) we really didn’t have much else on. So she took the job.

Bear and pants

We moved to the seaside for the afternoon and the lifeguards were fascinated. When the Giant Underpants shoved their way into their hut there were gales of laughter on all sides.

“Hot pants,” one of them quipped, eyeing up my sister.

“People have been trying to get into her pants all day,” I warned.

“Well, I’m the one in authority here,” said the oldest of the lifeguards; “Knick-her!”

I groaned all the way down the beach.

Halfway back up the ramp I was accosted by a tiny blonde girl of about six. “Excuse me, what are you doing?”

I favoured her with a grin and launched into my standard spiel. “I’m telling everyone about my new book, ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ It’s very funny, and there are bears in it doing very funny things!” Okay, so it wasn’t exactly my standard spiel. I handed her a flyer to seal the deal and strolled off.

A few steps later I turned to check on the bear, only to discover the blonde girl was walking along behind me. “Excuse me,” she said again, “can I have one of those for my friend? He wants one.”

“Here you go,” I told her, handing her another flyer. She skipped away merrily.

“We’d better move,” I said to my team.

“Eh? Why?” They followed me quickly back up the boat ramp and into the crowd at top speed. “Where are we going?” Gill asked when she caught up with me.

“Well, those flyers I gave to the little girl?”

“Yeah?”

“The second line on them reads ‘Holy SHIT! I’m about to be eaten by a bear.”

“Oh…! Right. Yeah, we’d best get moving then…”

The flyers did their trick though. I was delighted to see some people had kept hold of them, and were brandishing them at me the same way you’d show a crucifix to a vampire. ‘Keep away,’ their eyes said, ‘you’ve got me already…’

Of the teenagers we met, some were clearly too cool for skool. These types, terrified of anything that could endanger their street cred, fixed their ludicrously outsized sunglasses on the horizon and strode past as quickly as possible. But one group of lads showed an interest. They dared each other to hug the bear (something that kids as young as 18 months had been managing to do without being dared all day). “Is it a boy or a girl in there?” One lad asked.

“Girl,” I replied.

Suddenly they all wanted a hug. One even tried a little dry-humping. His mate noticed and dragged him away with a stern warning. “Matt, bestiality is NOT the answer!”

Bear poses with lads

Then Gill offered a flyer to a confused looking man. “But I am here on holiday,” he said in heavily accented English. “I don’t know what to do?”

“Where are you from?” Gill asked.

“Cherr-many,” Came the response.

Gill brightened, and gave the bloke a wide smile. “Welcome to England!”

This marks the first time in the history our our two nations, that a citizen of one has been welcomed to the other by a gigantic pair of cardboard underpants. At least as far as I know.

As the day drew to a close and our dancing bear had hugged her way into heat-stroke, Gill (in pants) tried to flyer a flyerer – only to find out the man was advertising The Path To Heaven. In fact he had a large placard with a flow diagram, neatly depicting which sins pointed you towards Purgatory and Hell (and in which order), and which acts of redemption allowed you to ascend to the clouds. It looked so… definite.

He didn’t even offer me a flyer.

I could tell from his expression that there is no place in heaven for people like us.

So. What did I learn?

1) NO-ONE can resist ANYTHING when it’s handed to them by a walking pair of underpants.

2) Children love bears. Especially smiling ones. This works well, as while they are hugging, poking and otherwise molesting said bear, I can chat to the parents about my book. HOWEVER, it does make a lot of people think it is a children’s book. Perhaps I should consider writing a children’s book. Or renting a werewolf.

3) Promoting from behind a keyboard isn’t nearly as fun as getting out there in the real world. Especially if you’re a complete lunatic. I can’t imagine we made many sales from our activities, but we sent some photos and an article to the local paper. They’re bound to print something – literally nothing else happened here last week.

4) Hot day + hot bear costume = one sweaty fiancé. The Giant Underpants were far better ventilated. That is not a sentence I get to use very often.

5) My family love me very, very much. And I use this love to make them look foolish, and then write about it. But you know, I’m okay with that…

So. Done anything crazy lately?

Bear hugging tree Roo in bear suit